A good activist is one who understands the issues and is persistent in achieving one’s goals in the larger interest of the society. A great activist is one who nurtures, educates, and creates future activists who are equally dedicated to a cause.
Frieda, one of America’s most influential anti-nuclear and peace activists, died peacefully June 20, 2012. She was 90.
Born in Austria in 1922, she migrated to the United States during the Second World War and settled with her husband William Berryhill, first in North Carolina, eventually in Delaware.
Having grown up at the height of extreme right wing movement in Austria and Germany and witness to life during war torn Europe, like many young women of her time, she left her homeland. That period shaped her political beliefs rooted in democracy and straight-talk.
‘How can you not speak up?” was her life-long catch phrase. Her old white car had stickers denouncing imperial wars and nuclear power. ‘Stop The War!’ ‘Stop The Lies!’ ‘The Emperor Has No Brains!’
Frieda had a hip replacement surgery two years ago. During those few weeks that she was in hospital, she kept up with her postings although brief. And even then, always cheerful, always positive.
The last communication we had was in April 2012. Here are a few bits:
[notice]“Thirteen months have passed since the Fukushima reactors exploded, and a U.S. Senator finally got off his a… and went to Japan to see what is going on over there………..
What he saw was horrific.
And now he is saying that we are in big trouble.”
“Yes it spreads all over the world and will eventually poison us all”[/notice]
That was 23rd April, 2012. Probably her stomach cancer had already metastasized and she had just a few months more.
‘Nothing like learning to understand’
The Austrian Government decided to build a 700 MWe Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant; the plant was completed, like our Kudankulum NPP, but was never operated. A nation-wide referendum on 5th November 1978 voted against start up.
It’s a monument to a failed technology. 1978.
Remember that this was the first time that a fully constructed nuclear plant was stopped from starting. While the socialist government of Chancellor Kreisky spent 30 million Austrian shilling to manipulate public opinion, many more millions to influence the trade unions and industries associations.
The nascent anti-nuclear group using their own savings and commitment created Mothers against Nuclear Power, Teachers against N.P., Physicists against N.P., Biologists, Geologist, Physicians, Pupils, Catholics, Artists, Trade Unionists against Nuclear Power and others. That finally caused a small group within the Socialists to come out with “Socialists against Zwentendorf.”
I have a feeling that Frieda played a role although I can’t confirm it and she never claimed any ‘victory.’ There are other people credited for having stopped the NPP going critical but the current Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann expects anti-nuclear movement to start in at least six European Union countries in 2012 with the goal of abandoning nuclear power.
Activists have all sorts of reasons to oppose nuclear power plants. Frieda had one point programme: if the nuclear power industry can’t manage waste, it will compromise future generations’ health.
A long time ago on an anti-nuke forum I strongly opposed NPT. My arguments were that (a) the western powers must first dismantle any kind of nuke; (b) since western powers are the criminals every nation should have nuclear weapons, because (c) with just 300 one megaton weapons any nation would be able to annihilate the planet and extinguish all life on earth. Just 300 nukes can finish all wars forever, all kinds of religious fundamentalism and bigotry, and all oppression and liberate mankind forever. Since then we became good friends.
She was thorough with facts and very precise with words. She attended whenever there were hearings on licensing, renewal, etc, and came up with clear reasons for opposing continued operation of nuclear reactors for electricity generation. Frieda’s presence was ominous for the purveyors of nuclear power as Delaware authorities know.
I have over two thousand emails from her, never deleted any. In each one there is a report on one nuclear reactor or the other, accidents minor or major, threats to life, threats to growing children, and threats to natural systems that ensure life on earth.
On 13th March 2012 she wrote this: “On Saturday there were over 80 Fukushima related news stories, nearly equivalent to what we would see in an entire week. From video documentaries (NHK) to photographic specials and news specials almost all of which were out of Japan. US coverage was almost universally pathetic as expected. Imagine, we nearly 1,500 daily newspapers in the US, yet less than 30 papers actually carried Fukushima content, and many of them did so only online. And she concludes:
[warning]“Without Price Anderson not a single nuclear plant would have been built. Without Price Anderson they would shut them all down”
“Viva la Free Enterprise”[/warning]
Frieda was aware of the dangers posed by nuclear reactors for electricity generation in India. We often discussed this issue and shared our concerns with a group of close friends, many of them nuclear weapons’ experts. After the Three Mile Island meltdown and her main concern was evacuation and relocation. Since 2006, when Bush and Manmohan Singh signed the nuclear agreement, she would post every scrap of information on this disastrous policy.
A typical joke from Ma Frieda would go:
[notice]Indian walks into a cafe with a shotgun in one hand pulling a male buffalo with the other.
He says to the waiter: “Want coffee.”
The waiter says, ”Sure, Chief. Coming right up.” He gets the Indian a tall mug of coffee. The Indian drinks the coffee down in one gulp, turns and blasts the buffalo with the shotgun, causing parts of the animal to splatter everywhere and then just walks out.
The next morning the Indian returns. He has his shotgun in one hand, pulling another male buffalo with the other. He walks up to the counter and says to the waiter: “Want coffee.”
The waiter says “Whoa, Tonto!
We’re still cleaning up your mess from yesterday. What was all that about, anyway?”
The Indian smiles and proudly says ..”Training for position in United States Congress: Come in, drink coffee, shoot the bull, leave mess for others to clean up, disappear for rest of day.[/notice]
Early in April 2006 she warned me of the consequence of a nuclear attack on Iran. She sent me the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report describing the effects of a one-megaton bunker-buster weapon dropped on Esfahan [Isfahan], which is said to be the primary location of the Iranian nuclear weapons program, warning me of mass slaughter in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and sent this URL:
May her five decades of work inspire us all to make India free of the scourge of Nuclear Power Plants.
May her soul rest in peace.